Q&A: Mike Monello, Director, Haxan

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Directing collective Haxan was quickly ushered from obscurity by The Blair Witch Project, a movie with one of the first mainstream viral internet marketing campaigns. Mike Monello, one fifth of the group whose production home is at Chelsea Pictures, has since helped mastermind the alternate reality game "More to See" for Sharp and "Beta7" for Sega via Wieden + Kennedy. Asserting that good interactive work creates a community, and in turn that the group building the project must be tight-knit, he offers some thoughts on the state of the genre.

C: What are the keys to engaging a target audience to the point where they actively participate in the real world?

Monello: Develop a community and engage them on a regular basis.

C: How well is online/interactive/digital marketing integrated into the creative process? Is it still considered an extra or is it included from the outset at agencies?

Monello: Clients are demanding it so agencies include it in pitches to win accounts. Once they win the accounts, however, they aren't really sure how to pull it off. It's tricky because these kinds of campaigns require agencies to work differently. For instance, the wall between media and production must come down to push the form where it needs to go. The culture of instant gratification we currently aim for needs to be re-evaluated. Audiences, on the other hand, are ready to embrace it when done right

C: Is this area attracting talent to a sufficient degree? Where are the best people coming from?

Monello: Collaboration is key, as it is a completely different mindset that draws on storytelling, gaming and sociology, in addition to traditional marketing, media, and more. The best people are working in tightly integrated teams and bring a broad set of skills to the table.

C: What's the next milestone in online/interactive marketing or entertainment?

Monello: A critical mass of major projects that start from a truly nontraditional media focus.

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